Police identify tree worker killed in Chesterfield

Months later, science teacher Vinny Ferraiolo’s death ruled homicide

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Vinny Ferraiolo, the popular science teacher at Thomas Dale, was also the owner of exotic pet shop Off the Ark off Iron Bridge Road.

That’s where six months ago, on January 3, he was found dead inside, hanging from a rope. At the time police said they did not suspect foul play, and his case was a death investigation. The death certificate obtained by CBS 6 shows that the Medical Examiner doesn't agree.

On the death certificate of the beloved teacher, the condition resulting in death is listed as “ligature strangulation” but the “manner of death” is marked “homicide.”

That’s shocking to his good friend Troy Thomas, who was constantly on the road with Ferraiolo doing exotic pet shows.

"I would never think anyone would want to do harm to Vinny,” said Thomas.  “Everyone loved Vinny.  He put a smile on everyone's face from young kids to the elderly."

Vinny Ferraiolo owned Off the Ark Exotic Pets.

Vinny Ferraiolo owned Off the Ark Exotic Pets.

Thomas didn't understand how police could say there were no signs of foul play, and said he went into the store right after police pulled up the crime tape.

"There was blood everywhere, on the microwave, counters, back room, all different places,” Thomas said.  “It didn't make sense."

On March 28, nearly three months after Ferraiolo’s death, the death certificate was amended from “pending” to homicide. No press release was ever distributed, no announcement made that the status changed.

"In Virginia the M.E.'s office is responsible for investigating all deaths and they take everything into account before finalizing their report," said crime expert Steve Neal, a former Chesterfield detective.

Vinny Ferraiolo was very loved respected by his students at Thomas Dale.

Vinny Ferraiolo was very loved and respected by his students at Thomas Dale.

Chesterfield Police issued a statement that said: "We are aware of the Medical Examiner's finding and our investigation is still ongoing. As with any ongoing investigation, anyone with information should call police at 748-1251or Crime Solvers at 748-0660. We have no additional comment at this time."

For the hundreds who gathered in the days after his death and for the thousands who had passed through his classroom, many questions remain.  Chief among them: who killed their favorite teacher and why?

"I'm shocked to see it in writing and upset it wasn't noticed before and takes six months to come out," said Thomas.

Ferraiolo's brother William Ferraiolo said that he had seen the Medical Examiner’s report and that there are questions.

“But I am not convinced it's a homicide or persuaded, but I am not a medical examiner or pathologist, so I can't really comment any further,” he said.

Again, if you have any information about the case, call Chesterfield Police at 748-1251 or Crime Solvers at 748-0660.

A vigil for Thomas Dale teacher Vinny Ferraiolo was  held at Off the Ark Exotic Pets

A vigil for Thomas Dale teacher Vinny Ferraiolo was held at Off the Ark Exotic Pets.


  • Liz

    Vinny left 4 young children. I hope WTVR remembers and respects that, as well as his wife, as they report this story over the next few days and weeks.

  • Kenny Powers

    Looks like CPD has some explaining to do…I know jurisdictions want to keep the homicide count low, and are quick to rule any death a suicide or accident before all the facts are in. If this is the case, then they have lost precious time in this investigation, and someone needs to be held accountable.

  • Fisher

    Someone dropped the ball here. Blood every where? and then he hangs himself, that should’ve been a red flag for investigators already.

  • Ted Fisher

    This shows serious incompitence by the chester police he was one of the most loved and respected figures and his family and friends and the hundreds of students who loved him deserve closure. Who ever did this needs to be found and punished but so much time has passed that most evidence will have been brushed aside. As if this couldn’t be more heartbreaking. All of us at TD give our love and prayers to his family and he will never be forgotten.

  • Concerned

    This is so sad! I dont recall the hanging information or blood information released at the time of his passing. If it had been maybe the community could have been on alert and keeping an eye open since the police cant be bothered to investigate further. And how exactly do they solve this months later. This is not simply a death. Vinny was such a positive influence on the entire community, very well loved and respected. He deserves better than this. His family deserves better than this. I just pray his wife and children are surrounded by comfort and support during this time.

  • Fishy Business

    SOMETHING smells fishy…………As I recall, didn’t Vinny’s house burn down not long before he was found dead? Does anyone else think this is a bit odd?

  • Annamay

    Vinny was the first person we met when we moved to VA in April of 1989. He was working at Sergio’s. His bright and pleasing smile, his friendly and helpful nature, his instant attitude of caring and kindness towards everything and everyone. We have heard little things about him through the years, always good things. All good things. It was a painful and confusing shock to hear of his dreadful sudden death. Although it doesn’t change the loss, it makes more sense that he did not take his own life.

  • Meghan

    First it says his friend was shocked his death was changed to a homicide, then it says he was shocked they didnt see foul play? Which one is it? And I thought he died of a heart attack or some other natural cause. This is news to me that he was found hanging in his store

    • Matt

      I was listening to the police scanner when he was discovered. a neighboring business called police when they saw his car, but not him. I suspect the details were not released because a), they thought it was a suicide, or b) it was an ongoing investigation due to the scene. Please remember that the detectives can’t release everything. It is an investigation and someone knows what happened. I’m be willing to bet the police have been actively pursuing this perp since the crime happened.

  • Jackson Green

    This is such a shame. I feel terrible for the family, I hope they can live on in peace even with how earthshattering this can all be. That said, the ball here was not just dropped by the Chester PD, it was completely slammed into the ground. Absolutely bewildered me from the facts presented here how there could be anything other than foul play here. Shame on them for letting this so I through their fingers. Whoever was in charge of this oughta be demoted a few ranks until they pull their act together. If they aren’t then it’s easy to see how engrained the “good ol boy network” is there. At any rate, my thoughts and prayers go to those suffering.

  • Teresa

    The story just does not add up. It may be that that is the way his family wants it which is why they did not announce the change. Also too I’m pretty sure the hanging detail was omitted originally but it was all over social media so they had to let that part out. If it was homicide. I do hope and pray they catch the person but I’m sure it will all be kept under wraps and we will most likely not be given anymore info.

  • matthew johnson

    i had mr.f this year and there has been students changing profiles from twitter and other media to I’ve killed vinny ferriollo i am not sure if this is for the attention of it or not but that’s not something to be jokeing about !

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  • brian

    Didn’t those sorry ass police suspect ms13. He had a student that was murdered. Ryan something and it was because if drugs. That’s what vinny told me. How do they know he didn’t help a student out and get himself in trouble in the process? That’s the kind of guy I took Vinny to be. He was a good soul.

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